Tooth sensitivity: Causes, remedies & treatment

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TOOTH sensitivity is a common dental problem that involves discomfort or pain in teeth when encountering cer-tain substances and temperatures. At least 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth in the United States, accord-ing to the Academy of General Dentistry.
The pain is often sharp and sudden, but it is temporary. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the pain may shoot into the tooth’s nerve endings. Fortunately, sensitive teeth can be treated and the condition can improve.
There are no at-risk groups for tooth sensitivity. It can happen to anyone, according to Dr. Margaret Culotta-Norton, a dentist in Washington, D.C., and former president of the D.C. Dental Society. “The most common symp-tom … is a sudden, sharp flash of pain when teeth are exposed to air, cold, sweet, acidic or hot foods,” she told Live Science. Some people may experience tooth sensitivity from brushing or flossing their teeth.
In healthy teeth, enamel protects the underlying layer of dentin, which is softer than enamel. The tooth roots are protected by gums. But if the enamel is worn down or if the gum line has receded, then the dentin becomes exposed. “Cavities, cracked teeth, gum recession, enamel and root erosion all cause dentin to be exposed,” Culotta-Norton said. “Dentin is connected to the nerve that triggers pain in sensitive teeth.” Dentin contains thousands of microscopic tubules, or channels, leading to the tooth’s pulp, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. When exposed to the elements, these dentinal tubules allow heat, cold, acidic or even sticky substances to reach the nerves inside the tooth, causing pain.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, some factors that contribute to sensitive teeth may include: Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. This can wear down enamel, causing dentin to become exposed, or en-courage gum recession. Gum recession. This often happens in people suffering from periodontal disease, and it exposes the dentin.Gingivitis. Inflamed and sore gum tissue can result in exposure of the tooth’s root. Cracked teeth. These can become filled with bacteria from plaque and cause inflammation in the pulp of the tooth. In more severe cases, it may lead to abscess and infection. Teeth grinding or clenching. This can wear down enamel. Long-term use of mouthwash. Some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acids. If dentin is exposed dentin, the acids can make existing tooth sensitivity worse and also further damage the dentin layer. There are neutral fluoride mouthwashes available that might be a better option.

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